Wednesday, June 21, 2017

It's been a while...

The question needs an answer so, yes... Biker Dude still rides a bike. The thing is, he works at a bike shop.
So? What's the deal about that?
Well, the thing is... when the weather is just right for bike riding, people bring their bikes to a bike shop, or else they go to one to buy stuff, or a new bike, or to get theirs serviced. This makes the bike store busiest during when..? During bike riding season. Therefore, it's ironic that people who work at bike shops don't actually ride, or get to ride, as much as people think they do.
So to compensate for that phenomenon, biker dude rides his bike to work. On days when the weather allows of course.
But where before it was a 30 mile ride to, and then 30 from work, 60 total, now it's an 11 1/2 there and 11 1/2 back.
Not as much time and distance for there to be as many stories to tell. Plus, now it's more of a city ride. Dealing with cars, and the ummmm, to put it nicely, unpleasant and dipshit brained people who drive them. Fill in as many four letter words as you can come up with and I'm sure they are all appropriate.
Getting behind the wheel of a car turns at least 50% of the humans who do so into the most impatient, angry, me first selfish clueless ignorant and inconsiderate jerks on the planet. Again, fill in with your imagination any four letter words you can think of.
But who wants to hear stories like that?
There's enough of them on the news.
So till something worth telling comes up, or comes to mind, hang in there and be patient.
Stories are coming.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Requiem For a Racoon...

A couple of days ago, after all the snow was melted and dried up, Biker Dude looked out the kitchen window into the yard.

"Hmmmmm... what IS that out there under the bench?" he thought.

He decided it was just an old grocery bag that had blown into the yard.

Today, he looked out the window again.

"Hmmm... that so called 'grocery bag' hasn't moved in two days. Weird."

He went out there to take a look.

And there it was. A dead raccoon.

No blood... no signs of injury... no flies.. no bad smell... it just lay there peacefully, like it was taking a nap.

But it was as solid as a block of ice.

Maybe it forgot to check that the weather was going to be close to zero degrees back in December.

Biker Dude bowed his head for a half moment of silence. He never liked it when an innocent animal died. Not even a not so innocent one. But at least this time, Biker Dude didn't personally bring about its demise, unlike the skunk he accidentally ran over last year. He could still see the shape rising up in the dark and feel the thump thump of the tires and the feeling that it was something alive as he ran it over.

And like with the possum under his girlfriend's deck last summer, Biker Dude won't say how he got rid of the mortal remains. Some people would consider that too much information. But this racoon's last ride was set for the following day.

On the next best thing to a requiem that Biker Dude could give him; Racoon Heaven on wheels...

A garbage truck.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

What do you call this sort of thing?

Imagine this…. and maybe it has happened to you too…
You hear about an open mike night happening at a local venue. A bookstore in my case. The flyer on the grocery store window says, “Poetry, writing, stories, music… Open Mike night. Come share yourself with new friends.”
So if you’re like me, you think, “Wow! I’ve been to that store, I like the place, I could read some of my stuff there.” And you get home and dig through your computer files and journals and printouts and emails to find just the right thing to share. And you think about it all day and think what to wear and what to bring and who you might meet.
And you go and when it’s your turn, you walk up to the mike, tap it a few times to make sure it’s on, squint into the lights, and start to read.
At first you’re voice catches and you’re a little stuttery, but then you get going. Your throat relaxes and your heartbeat evens out and you find your groove. You pour your heart and soul and guts out, and afterwards you’re pretty excited about it. Some more writers read what they’ve been working on and some of it is better than yours and some so-so, but it’s the whole atmosphere and concept that excites you. Here you are among people who appreciate creative writing.
And then a bunch of people one at a time get up in front and play guitars and sing songs. Some originals. Most of them covers.
The next day you check out the facebook page for the event to find…
Videos of the guitar playing people.
Not a word about the writers.
This can’t be right. So you look around a while more like maybe you missed where it was.
But there’s nothing.
This happened to me back in the fall of 2012.
So.. flash forward. Over the past summer (2013), my dad died. We, the family, arranged to have a memorial service at a local funeral home. A few weeks before the service, some family members asked if any of us had any stories about my dad that we could share during the service, since all they had so far was a preacher friend of my brother’s who volunteered to talk.
So I wrote a story. I wrote about something that happened when we were kids and that showed what an amazingly talented person my father was. I told people things that they didn’t know about him because these were things only we as his kids experienced.
The day of the memorial I had my story written out and was revising it off and on leading up to me getting up front.  When the minister friend who was up front finished his prayer/blessing/eulogy sort of speech, he said, “Does anyone else have anything they would like to share?” I got up and went to the front.
I wasn’t nervous at all. And people were amazed that I didn’t break down crying while I read about an incident where my dad showed not only what an amazingly talented person he was, but also how, at a moment when he should have completely lost his temper and murdered us, he stayed calm and just shrugged off the thing we did as, “This is what boys do.”
And the writing… it wasn’t about me. It wasn’t me trying to say, “Look at me, I’m a writer.” It was me sharing my father with them. A man who is no longer here but whom I’m bringing memories of him that they’d never known.
The story showed my dad’s compassion and humanity, and I added some humor and put it all in a kid’s perspective. I took them back in time 45 years and put them right there with me and my brother as we completely destroyed something my dad built when he was a teenager, and then how he rebuilt the thing… from memory… and how he kept control and resisted destroying us.
People loved it. Some cried. Some clapped.
Then… my sister in law got up front with her guitar and played, “Amazing Grace.” A song everyone’s heard a thousand times, and though it’s a great song with great meaning, she didn’t write it. It said nothing about my dad.
And the next day, on facebook, what’s there?
A video of her singing and playing guitar.
No video… No picture… Not even a single word about the story showing my dad as only one of his children could have seen him. Not a word about his awesome talents and inventiveness and patience and often magical ability to fix anything no matter how broken it was.
Just a stupid song that out of context shows nothing about my dad and who he was and what he did. Just the guitar player. That’s what gets remembered. That’s what gets immortalized forever for the world to see.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

When you're "Up There" Part 2...

This post isn’t about writing or getting up in front of people though.

Today I was up on the roof shoveling off the nine inches the latest snowstorm left, and I got a little distracted…

Sunday, March 3, 2013

When You're "Up There..."

A while back my girlfriend and I went to see David Sedaris. If you don't know who he is, he's a writer of short stories and essays. He's been published in The New Yorker as well as numerous other magazines, has several collections of short stories, and has a very unique sense of humor and style. We loved seeing and hearing him.

The reason I mention him today is because, back when we saw him, as he was reading a piece to the audience, we noticed that he was making marks on it based on how the audience was reacting. He was marking it up AS he was performing it... revision on the fly.

 Flash forward to last night.

There's an open mike night, called "Musings," at the local bookstore, Books At Sunset, a half mile from my house. I was up in front reading a story I had written about typography class and one day in particular. As I was up there in front of maybe 35 people, I was able to read and feel their reactions as I read from my story. I sensed certain parts were slow and not as interesting, as well as the parts that they enjoyed. It was like my mind was in high speed because I thought in two completely separate streams. One was reading and saying the words, while simultaneously one was thinking, "Okay.. that part needs to be cut. It just didn't work. Hmmm.. I could change that to this. And that part was way too long before getting to the point. Why did I even think this story was funny? I should have used that other story I wrote last week. Why do I do this to myself anyway? I practically read a first draft in front of a crowd. That's just asking for disappontment. Never ever do that again. Dang. I hope they like the end. That's probably the best part."

And it was. The last paragraph was the funniest part. But I bet I could have shortened the piece by half and made the whole experience better for all of us.

Wow. What a lesson.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Coffee Maker Repair Dude...

Early December was not treating Biker Dude nicely. It was too cold to bike to work, but instead of sleeping later, he still got up as if he was going to ride.Which all meant that when he drove, he arrived at work much earlier than normal.

He keyed himself in and shuffled across the cold concrete factory floor to his desk. He took his jacket off and hung it on the back of his chair and poked a finger at the ON button of the computer. He missed. He shut his eyes and rubbed them. Shook his head, opened his eyes, aimed, and poked again. The computer lit up, beeped at him, and soft ticking and zapping sounds came from within as the electronic circuits and programming came to life. Before the login screen had a chance to show its face, he'd grabbed two empty cherry coke bottles, and made his way to the cafeteria. To his friend and salvation.

The coffeemaker.

He flipped the light on and there it sat. Empty. Dang. Usually there was enough leftover from the day before to microwave. Not today.

He popped the top open and lifted out the filter holder. Then he dumped out the grounds and filled the carafe with water. Threw a filter in, six scoops of Folgers, poured the water into the maker and pushed the start button.

After five long seconds, the coffeemaker started making a bubbling sound. Like it had asthma. Then the breathing became steadier. Water heated up and flowed. Like Frankenstein twitching his fingertips... like a car just started when it's below zero, or like the computer booting up, it slowly came to life.

Biker Dude waited. He rubbed his eyes some more and leaned against the counter top.

Off to the side of the coffee maker lay a black piece of plastic. Biker Dude picked it up. Hmmm.. what the heck was this? It kind of looked like a black mushroom. Or a petrified mini jellyfish. It had a shaft and around the shaft, a spring. The mushroom's "cap" was about as big around as a quarter. He pondered the piece from all angles as the coffee maker hissed and popped and coffee tinkled from the filter above into the carafe.

A toaster sat nearby on the counter top. Mostly chrome but with black plastic knobs for setting the toasting time. Biker Dude tried fitting the mushroom piece onto the toaster. He worked the toaster levers to see if something was broken. He even picked it up to see if the plastic piece had fallen out the bottom of it.

All looked okay. The piece didn't really go with the toaster anyway. Not artistically at least. It was more of a art nouveau style, where the toaster was art deco. More sharp and angular lines.
The knobs weren't rounded either, more like crowned. He set the piece down. The coffee was still brewing but there was enough in the carafe to fill his bottles. He reached for the carafe.

When he took it from the heating pad, coffee poured down from the filter holder and onto the heating pad. Steam shot up. The coffee crackled and popped. Dang!

He looked underneath to where there was usually some sort of stopper mechanism. All there was was a hole. Coffee streamed through from above and onto the burner.

All that perfectly good caffeine going to waste.

He grabbed a handful of paper towels, which fortunately sat within reach, and sopped up the still spilling coffee. He replaced the carafe and cursed.

Then he stopped his cursing and thought.

He came up with a new strategy. He hit the on off switch, and waited for the remaining water to use itself up.

Now he knew what the mushroom thing was for. It was so a person could remove the carafe while the coffee was still brewing.

When the remaining water was used up, biker Dude dumped the grounds and filter into the garbage can and took the filter holder out. Nothing but an open hole. No wonder. This spring and mushroom are parts of the coffee maker. But something was missing. They fit, but the pieces that had held them to the filter holder were gone.

He scrounged in the bottom of the garbage can. In the grounds he had earlier thrown out. Among stale popcorn and the remains of somebody's mashed potatoes. There was half a baloney sandwich.. some wilted lettuce. Stray pizza crusts and empty pop cans and bottles... along with a few other items he thought he was just imagining.

But damn. No coffee maker part.

Not good.

He could do one of two things.

Tell the office administrator the coffee pot was broken. But she wouldn't be in for another two hours.


Fix it himself.

He rose to the challenge.

He studied the part and how it fit into the filter holder. He searched his mind for something that would work, then cross referenced it with parts he knew were available here at work. At home this would be no problem. He was known for keeping a supply of "improvisable hardware" as he called it. But he wasn't at home. Dang again.

He needed something with a rubber seal, preferably a disc, and if too large, able to be trimmed to size. He also needed a sort of clip or a holder to keep the seal in place. The holder was easy. In the tool cabinet sat a case with an assortment of O-rings. Dozens of different sizes. One would fit perfectly at the base of the mushroom and hold the seal in place against the spring. He found the right size in half a minute.

The other thing, the rubber seal, would be the challenge.

He thought a while more. Even closing his eyes to "see" the part in his mind's eye. Like Jimmy Neutron, he went into "think" mode.

Then his eyes popped open and lit up. He knew what he had to do.

In the absence of duct tape and a Swiss army knife. Without a supply of rubber bands or paper clips... although a paper clip would have worked nicely instead of an O-ring, just wouldn't have looked as professional... he used what he knew worked on all brands and styles of coffee makers he'd ever come across.

He'd fixed his girlfriend's coffee pot with one once.
The universal coffee maker repair part. Able to be trimmed and drilled and shaped into exactly what one needs in times of emergency...

a plastic pop bottle top.

Lit Class... First Night...

Back in January, while Biker Dude sat drinking cup after cup of over sugarred coffee and staring out the window at the five foot high piles of snow bordering the driveway, I decided to take a literature class. I figured it was hopeless to try to get Biker Dude to do anything until the snow melted and the temperatures returned to above 50 degrees. Around here (Northern Illinois) that's not always a predictable thing. Temperatures jump up to the sixties even in January, for maybe a day or two, and, just after teasing us into thinking we can actually take off a layer of clothing, they plummet down to single digits and stay there, or below that, for the next month. Then they creep upwards a degree at a time just until March, when, again they plummet down to arctic values. By April though, they finally stay above thirty. The snow gets to melt and the gas bill finally drops below $100.

While Biker Dude mumbled about this being the longest winter in history and turned the tattered pages of the same bike catalog he'd been looking at since last fall, I decided to get out of the house. I registered for a Literature class at the community college a mile from my house and went back to school.

Class started out awesomely. Is that a word? No? Well, it may not be, but it sums up how excited I was after the first class.

I bought the textbook ahead of time, I got a used copy of course. I like my books mangled. The more creased and written in, the better. Anyway, the textbook was titled, "Fiction: A Pocket Anthology", by R. S. Gwynn. It consisted of some reference material on literature terms and a glossary, but mainly, it was a collection of 41 short stories by authors such as Hawthorne, Poe, Steinbeck, Faulkner, Hemingway, Jackson. Munro, Carver, Atwood.. and more. I thumbed through it and spotted a few stories I had read in high school and college.

The instructor passed out the syllabus, and upon looking over it over, I saw that, along with four major papers we had to write, we were going to read ALL of the stories.

In every other class I've ever taken, Fiction Class: where we used Janet Burroway's excellent book, "Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft" and Fiction Class again: where we used Perrine's book, "Literature: Story and Structure," we only ever read and discussed a few of the stories or chapters.

This class was going to cover the entire book. Wooohooo! The instructor let us go home early, and I went home that night and started to read. Later, I called my girlfriend and yakked non-stop for half an hour about all the cool stuff we were going to do. I got off the phone, after she told me how excited she was about me being so excited, as well as about her day, and I read another assigned story until I fell asleep.

The next day I took a look at the syllabus again and started planning out what I would write my papers on.

That was week one.

Week two came along and... well, that's another story.

Being Pulled to the Softer Side...

Today, Biker Dude sat at the computer working on a story. It was originally going to be about the time he was riding home from Aurora, and, just as he slowed to check out two women jogging -- they were wearing skin tight, up the butt-crack lycra volleyball shorts, or hot pants.. except these were scorchingly hot... probably illegal in most states, but oh well... -- just as he slowed down to take his time passing the two girls, a guy on another bike passed him by and said, "On your left.

The three most hated words in the world.

So he went after the guy, as much as he really wanted to go slow for a while and enjoy the view.

He caught up to the guy of course, and the guy turned around and saw Biker Dude in pursuit, and the guy started pedalling harder.

So Biker Dude got up out of the saddle and shifted into another gear and called out to the guy, "I don't think so," and....

...then he got distracted.

There, as he wrote, was the cat sitting by his side, on the floor at the cocktail table, looking up at him and purring.

"I can't pet you right now, I'm in the middle of a story."

The cat just looked back. It's eyes looking huge and soft in the subdued living room light.

"I said, no. Now let me write."

He tried to go back to the story, but the cat stayed right there to his left, still purring and giving him the eyes. Biker Dude could practically hear the cat's desire to be held, and well, he was a cute cat. Why yesterday, as Biker Dude was reading and writing in the margins of the book he started a week before, the cat kept trying to grab at the pencil when he saw the eraser bobbing around over the top of the book. He ended up spending more time playing with the cat than reading.

Biker Dude thought that was cute. Especially since he himself was all about pencils. Earlier today the cat had done the same thing, and Biker Dude thought how this was a unique thing between him and his cat and books and reading.

He looked at the cat again and this time it meowed.

"You're evil, you know that?" he said.

The cat just purred.

"Fine," he said, and he took the cat into his arms and set it in his lap and petted it.

And he forgot all about the guy on the trail... and the two girls, and their shorter-than-short shorts, and all about the three most hated words.

He listened to the cat purr and felt his hands against its soft fur and made a mental note to himself.

Consider revising the blog titile to The Adventures of Cat Dude.

Ummmm.. No.

The Walmart from Hell...

Last Sunday morning Biker Dude went to Walmart.

Normally, he wouldn't be caught dead in Elgin's Walmart, especially on a Sunday. Elgin has the Walmart Charles Manson is scared of.

But Biker Dude needed to buy a lot of stuff. And he needed it to be cheap.

The place was jammed. Biker Dude couldn't turn his head without his chin hitting someone in the face. And he's no Jay Leno. He has patterns pressed into his skin from the shirt buttons of the people who were standing around him. It was that packed.

The place was a high speed frenzy of shopping carts and infants and zombie like adults and people who scare even satan to death. One guy looked like he had his entire body tattooed. Until Biker Dude saw it was just caked on dirt with finger painting done into it.

One guy had a face with about two dozen band-aids plastered all over. Either he was the world's worst shaver, or his face was about to fall apart and he ran out of scotch tape to hold it together. He had a mouth full of toothpicks and skull tattoos all over his arms and wore a necklace made out of chicken bones... with meat still on them!

Shopping was a nightmare.. Screaming crying babies were everywhere and a million people and two million carts were all crammed into just the toilet paper aisle alone! It took Biker Dude an hour just to get to the other end of it where Charmin was on sale... If you look at Biker Dude's arms next time you see him on the trails, you'll see the bite marks where some lady took a chunk out of him when I was reaching for the last package. This lady had fangs too and was wielding a machete. Fire erupted from a drain grate in the floor just as she bit him and she was, fortunately incinerated. At which point, a Pakistani looking version of her -- maybe her husband -- bent down and snorted the ashes like they were cocaine. Unfortunately, the Charmin was incinerated too, and Biker Dude had to settle for Scott Tissue, with Aloe.

Then he went to get some Tupperware and as soon as he poked his head out from the toilet paper aisle, he was run over by twenty toddlers all with pacifiers in their mouths, squirty formula bottles in their hands, and drippy, poopy diapers... trailing behind their mom...

and yes.. she was wearing a poopy diaper too.

She was nursing three infants at a time and brushing her teeth, shaving her armpits, and yanking nose hairs the size of garden hoses out of her nose... yes, her nose.. where else do you get nose hairs..... all while trying to steer a shopping cart around a spill of fly covered apple juice the size of lake Michigan.

Biker Dude managed to get around the spill, or rather through it, by using an O-Cedar broom as an oar and riding on top of his shopping cart.

One of the things he wanted to get was one of those loofa-ey things. Like a spongy loofa-ey thing that you use in the bathtub or the shower. He found a bin of the things near the shampoo section. They were about as big as a softball or a nerf ball.. actually, they could substitute for a nerf ball easily. Anyway, he was about to take one, but as soon as he stuck out his hand, this little kid looking like a miniature Kareem Abdul Jabbar came flying up like he was stealing a rebound, grabbed all of them, and started slam dunking them into the top of the bin. Biker Dude felt like fouling him and grabbing one and heading down court the opposite way, but the kid's mom was standing right there. Her arms were so long, her knuckles dragged on the floor. She was drooling all over the place and wearing a t-shirt that said, "Don't &%$#@ with me."

Biker Dude finally got his loofah thingee after some unintelligible voice called over the intercom that there was maggots in the dumpster behind the building. Mrs 'Don't &%$#@ with me' said "Oh Boy," grabbed little Kareem, and flew, cart and kid and all, to the back of the building.

Finally, somehow, Biker Dude got all the stuff he needed... along with a skeleton that somehow appeared in his cart when he wasn't looking, and mazed his way to the checkout area.

The lines at the checkout were so long, they had port a-potties set up every fifty feet. The problem was, by the time he got to the first port a-potty it had begun to overflow from so many people using it and he had to wade through the stuff. Ick....

The spill was so big that some teenagers were even water skiing through it sending chunks flying and spattering the walls and other customers in line. It's a good thing Biker Dude stood behind this big human beach ball of a guy or he would have gotten spattered too.

Biker Dude finally got to the cash register, which by that time had been so overworked that smoke and sparks were billowing and shooting out of it.. He felt like he was standing in the middle of a steel mill... there was even lava pouring out of it.

Anyway, somehow he made it through... although he now has these bite marks and his hair is now completely white and he has to eat Tums like it's popcorn.. just before he walked out the door, he saw some government looking guys in hazmat suits come in with what looked like an atomic bomb. Please... let them be nuking the place...

He started the car and floored it.

Never again.

Liquid Love...

Sometimes Biker Dude comes across as a bit of a tough guy. Well, okay, maybe that's stretching it... a little.

But he really can be a hard riding, chase-you-down maniac out there on a bicycle. Out there on the road, or on the trails, he's pure confidence. He's not afraid of anyone. And if he happens to come across someone he can't catch, he at least gives them a run for their money, and if they get away, oh well. No big deal. It just makes Biker Dude work harder at improving.

But in the social world, without the physical challenge of a race, he's actually rather quiet. You would never know he has a split personality. He loves gardening and growing vegetables, he loves writing and reading, and he never used to, but now he does, have a soft spot for cats.

Another huge weakness Biker Dude has, and which nobody that rides with him, or against him, ever sees or has a clue to its existence, is that he's a sucker for romance.

Last Sunday, Biker Dude's girlfriend left for a four month trip to Spain.

All the way up to her trip, which was in the planning stages for almost a year now, he had been all for it. As soon as she brought up her thoughts that he might not be okay with it, he told her right out, "I don't have a problem with it. I want you to go. Don't worry about me, I'll be okay."

And he was. He even helped her with researching the books she needed, finding articles and reference about what she was going to teach, and he even converted much of the material she needed into Nook format so she wouldn't have to carry so many books with her.

All the way up to the week before she left, he was perfectly calm.

At book club, one of the women, knowing that the time for his girlfriend to leave was approaching, asked him, "Are you going to be okay?" "Are you going to visit her?" "What will you do".

He told them all that he would be fine. That he couldn't visit her and that he thought this was the best thing in the world for his girlfriend. He pointed out to them how radiant she was these last several months. How excited and alive she was and so looking forward to this possibly once in a lifetime chance.

The whole last last week before she left, she cooked. And cooked. She made sure she used up everything in her basement freezer and in the kitchen refrigerator and she made Biker Dude take all of it home with him. Every day that week, he came over to see her. They played cards, they went for walks, they watched T.V., and they cooked.

They went to a cookout at some friends' house and while there, a few came up to Biker Dude and asked the same question others had asked before. "Are you going to be okay?"

He'd nod. "Yeah."

Then one night, two days before she was to leave, his girlfriend was hugging him as he was leaving.

"Are you going to be okay?" she asked, her face buried into his neck and shoulder.

"Mmmmm hmmmm..." he said. "There just won't be any cuteness around here for a while."

He felt her shake her head.

"But there will be the cat. He'll be cute."

He felt her nodding.

"But nobody's as cute as you."

She shook her head again.

Two days later, he took her to the airport, and when he got home, he walked in the living room, sat down, and looked at the cat, who looked up at him.

"She's gone."

The cat just looked at him some more. He picked up the cat and held it close.

It had seemed to take so long to happen, but here it was. The date had finally come. Her trip was just starting and she'd be away for four months.

He turned on the computer and stared at the email page like he had done five and a half years ago when they first started writing to each other every day ten times a day. Back then, he couldn't wait to see her again. He couldn't wait to read what she might write. He'd hit the refresh button every minute.

He felt that same way now. Except that now, there was no way she could write. She was on a flight across the Atlantic. And when she got to where she was going, the seven hour difference would make real time conversation a challenge.

He paced the house only to find himself at the refrigerator over and over. Staring at all the food she had sent home with him. He picked up a gallon container of chicken tortilla soup she had made. He remembered all the time it had taken her to make it and how radiant she was the whole time. He recalled how she didn't bother to measure every ingredient but just put in what she knew would make it perfect. And then how she had scoured the kitchen for enough Tupperware bins to fit all the food into. And then how she reminded him persistently until he took everything home.

He realized food and cooking were her love language. Whether she was conscious of it or not, this was her way of giving him a part of herself to sustain him when she was physically over 4000 miles away.

He popped open the soup bin and poured a bowl of it and put it in the microwave. When it dinged, he took the soup out, sat down with the cat, and as he breathed in the sweet aroma rising from the bowl, it was like his girlfriend was right there.

This magical soup. Never the same way twice. No wonder she didn't bother with measuring carefully. She didn't have to. All her recipes were sprinkled, doused, no... drenched liberally with the only ingredient that mattered and that no recipe book, no pantry, and no spice cabinet could provide...
only her...


What Time is it Over There?

Biker Dude's girlfriend was gone. She was going to be working in Spain for the next four months on an exchange sort of program. She was teaching a Lit class at a college in Sevilla.

They had said their goodbyes two weeks ago when he took her to the airport.

Ever since that day, every time he looked at the clock, he did a fast calculation. Adding seven to the time. Then he would think, "I wonder what she's doing now."

When it was 6:00AM at home, it was 1:00PM there. He'd think of what she might be doing. Just finishing up lunch at some street-side cafe maybe... or walking home from the park... or carrying fruit and groceries from the market... or riding the rent-a-bikes to some scenic or historic view... maybe she was watching couples walk hand in hand by the "Almeda de Hercules."

When he got home from school at 3:30, he'd do the math again. Hmmm.. 10:30PM over there. She's probably at home reading and just about to call it a night. Maybe she's on the roof looking at the lights, or by the river, watching boats go by and having a late dinner.

When he went to bed at night he knew that in an hour, when he was just starting to dream, she would be waking up and starting her day. He'd wonder what her plans were going to be. Where she would shop? What would she make for breakfast? What she's be talking about in her class? Would she sit on her veranda and write, and, if so, what would she write about?

It's odd, but for some reason the 4221 miles (yes, he did find a website that could calculate the exact distance between two cities on the planet) and the Atlantic Ocean really didn't make him feel removed from her. The difference in time had somehow made him think of her in a different way. To try to put himself in her place and feel what she was feeling, see what she was seeing. And maybe because he was trying to focus on being empathetic, he actually felt close to her despite an ocean between them.

Was that why? Or was it something else? He didn't know. But Biker Dude didn't care. What mattered was the feeling. The knowing that miles were just a number and that real and true closeness didn't factor distance into its equation. It was the same thing Golden Earring sang about in "Radar Love." A connection between lovers that was always there no matter the distance or displacement in time.

Biker Dude looked up at the clock again just before he went out to go to school. He paused at the backdoor and before locking it, he wondered... could she feel it too?

Something I read recently...

In one of the books I'm reading, "The Writer's Digest Handbook of Short Story Writing, Vol II", an article told of how one should start their story at the moment where the main character was teetering on the edge of something big. Where major change was imminent.

The author, Ray Sorrels, illustrated the concept with a table and a fragile teacup resting in the middle of it. He said that as long as the teacup sat in the middle of the table, it was safe. Nobody was worried about it, and there was nothing really worth talking about.

But, as the teacup was moved closer to the edge, tension mounted. Worry, suspense, anticipation all went up. People's heart rates increased. They moved a little closer to the edges of their seats and watched. They bit their nails, they had to have a cigarette, they paced.

And when the teacup was poised on the very brink of falling over and breaking, at that moment, frozen in time, everything was about to change. In a huge way. Especially for the teacup.

That's where the author of the article said to start your story.

He said to think of the teacup as your main character. Put him or her at the instant of that change, and go from there.

I thought about this. Especially being a relatively new writer and always looking for ways to motivate myself or make my task a little more doable.

And being a person with a lot of empathy, I put myself there too. I felt what the character was feeling.

This came really easy to me. I wondered why, and then it hit me: This very moment when my character is teetering on the brink of a huge change... I'm right there with him.

I'm on the brink of a major change too.

Considering all the work that goes into writing a novel or a story; all the time and energy and coffee and late nights and beautiful sunny days where I'm sitting inside racking my brains for just the right words... All the Ibuprofen I'm going to need. All the booze and all the cigarettes... all the missed soccer games and the dishes that never get washed...

It's a huge commitment.

If... and that's the big word.. IF... I make this decision and stick with it, not only is that teacup going to be changed... my character changed...

I'm going to be changed. I'll never be the same. Good or bad, I will have changed, permanently.

I thought about that too...

If there's going to be huge change inside of me, I can channel those feelings. If I look at what I'm going through and the flow of the story and the obstacles I need to overcome, I can pour those same feelings into my character. All the nervousness, the self doubt, the anticipation and excitement. All the frustration and struggle, and the successes and milestones. I can project through him or her what is happening inside of me.

And you know, I think this is what happens with all novelists and story writers. A part of themselves is channeled into the character, or characters, or story or setting or theme.

All of this is probably so obvious to you who are either professionals or have been doing this for some time. But for me, as new to this as I am to blogging, this realization is a revelation... an epiphany...

I see that I don't necessarily have to be alone on this journey. My character is there with me. We're travelers together. He or she follows along with every word I write and struggle over. And struggles with me to get it all said. And I'm sure we will have occasional disagreements. But, like in a real relationship, we're in it together. He or she gets to explore the unopened rooms and talk to the police and chase after the crook and climb the face of the cliff and crawl through the tunnels.

And I get to carry the sticky notes and scraps of paper and laptop and spiral notebook and pencils and follow where he or she goes and write down what matters.

I just have to be willing to jump off the edge with them.

The "Kas Wilton" Assignment..

Elgin Community College has a fiction class. It's taught by a woman who's written a novel and she runs it like a writing worshop, not a formal classroom.

One of her standard assignments is to write a story given the first line. In this case, "Kas Wilton went to the store..."

Some people's stories have gone on to be featured in the school's literary magazine published once a year. My story was written just for fun and a bit auto-biographical... and a bit not.

Here it is, just for fun:

Kas Wilton went to the Barnes and Noble. In the section where the writing books were he found a copy of Novel Writing for Dummies. He went up to the check out where a girl of about twenty stood chewing gum. He set the book down in front of her.
"Are you a member?"
"Huh?" Kas said. He had been staring through the window at three girls outside the store, the hoods of two cars were up and the girls were trying to connect the batteries with jumper cables.
"Are, you, a, mem - ber?" the girl behind the counter said.
"I heard you the first time, you..." He stopped himself, and pretended to cough. "Yes." He opened his wallet, took out his card and handed it to her.
"Ummm..," the girl said, and handed it back to him.
"Ummm, what? What now?" He felt himself sweating.
"We're Barnes and Noble here. Your card is for Borders. See... B, O, R, D, E, R, S" Holding the card towards him. She blew a bubble with her gum and popped it.
"Oh... " he took his card back. "Well, I guess I'm not a member here after all," he said, and chuckled.
The girl stared at him with no expression on her face. She rung up the book and said, "That'll be 17.53."
Kas searched for his credit card. He could have sworn it was here. He had used it last night at the restaurant to pay for dinner with his girlfriend Janey. Not a very good dinner either. Janey did nothing but nag at him about getting a higher paying job. She wanted to stay home and start an online jewelry company and wanted Kas to help finance it. He looked out the window past the girl to the parking lot. The three girls were still there. He'd have to stop and offer his assistance once he got out of here.
The girl saw where he was looking and moved into his way. "Hello?" she said.
Kas glared at her, but she was already looking at the ceiling and humming some tune to herself.
He checked the pockets of his jacket. Nothing. He pulled out a handful of loose bills, but there was no credit card. By now, several people behind him were gathered and waiting in line. Someone behind him coughed.
"We take cash." The girl said, pointing to the handful of bills.
"I know, I know... hang on, just a second."
The crowd behind him was larger now and he heard some people mumbling and groaning. The girl sighed heavily and rolled her eyes. Kas tried another pocket inside the jacket. Nothing there either. By now, Kas felt his hair getting damp and beads of sweat creeping down along the side of his face. Fine, he thought, just pay cash and get the heck out of here, "Uh, how much was that?"
"Se - ven - teen dol - lars and fif - ty three cents."
He handed her a twenty dollar bill wishing he had had a hundred so she would have to give him lots of change. She counted out his change and gave it to him slowly. She put the receipt and the book in a bag and handed it to him. Kas tried to maintain some dignity. "I'm a writer," he said.
The girl rolled her eyes again, popped her gum again and said to the crowd behind Kas, "I can help the next person."

Kas left the store, fuming, and glad to be away from that annoying girl. He'd have complained to the manager about her except he had a mission. He had decided earlier that week that he was going to write a novel. He headed for his car with his book and got inside. He thought there was something he wanted to do. What was it? Oh well. He started the engine and was just about to put it in gear when someone tapped on his window. It was one of the three girls he had seen earlier trying to connect the jumper cables. Kas rolled down his window.
"I'm sorry," she said. "But can you help us. We don't know how to jump start our car."
Kas found himself staring. If this girl wasn't a model, he was sure she would be some day. She looked like she belonged on the cover of Playboy, Or better yet, on the centerfold. His mind drifted, and he found he was smiling, really big and obviously.
"Uh... wha... er.. what did you say again?"
"We just need to know which wire to connect to.. or the battery or something." Kas got out of his car and smelled the girl’s perfume in the air. He imagined himself a photographer and these three girls in a photo shoot in his private studio. He thought maybe he should be a photographer instead of a writer.
He showed the girl where the battery was. The terminals were under a plastic cover. He released the cover and connected the jumper cables for her. "Okay, try it now," he said.
The girl inside the car tried it and the engine started right up. "Oh, thank you," the first girl said, and came over to him and planted a kiss on his cheek. The other two blew kisses at him and waved. He stood there smiling and watched as the three girls drove away. One in one car and two in the other.
He was about to get back in his car when he saw a girl in a blue Toyota staring at him... no... she was glaring. He'd seen her before somewhere, but where? He racked his mind, and as he did so, the girl glared even more like she was trying to shoot bolts of fire at him out of her eyes. As his brain, and other parts of him, returned to earth, he thought, Oh, shit. He remembered where he'd seen her before. It was Janey.
"Janey.. uh... hi... what are you doing here? I was just..." he said.
"You asshole," Janey said, and started to drive away.
Kas ran ahead and got in front of her car and stood there. "Janey, wait," he said, and when she came to a stop, he walked to the driver side window.
He was just about to lean into the window to talk to her when she pulled his ring off her finger, threw it at him. "Keep your cheap piece of plastic," she yelled , and when he scrambled after it to keep it from rolling into a sewer grating, she hit the gas and sped away.
Kas pocketed the ring and debated whether or not to follow her and finally decided if he was ever going to get some writing done, it was going to have to start today. He got into his car, picked up the book and thumbed through its pages breathing in the scent of fresh ink. "I know, I'll write about what just happened," he thought. "That will be a good place to start." Then he saw that the three girls who he had just helped were across the street at the Victoria’s Secret, and he decided then and there to take up photography too. He got out of his car and went back into the store.

Not such a "Cat Dude" after all...

About a month ago, Biker Dude happened to glance out his south window as he sat reading and saw a cat of the front steps of the house across the street.

Thinking nothing of it, he went back to reading his book.

Later, when it was dark, he kept hearing a cat meow. It continued, and when Biker Dude got up at three in the morning to get some water, he still heard the cat.

The next day he noticed that the cat was still on the front porch across the street. The neighbors came and went, but the cat stayed on the front porch. This continued for several days and during the hottest week of the year.

Biker Dude grew concerned. Normally, he would never have cared about a cat in possible distress. But since the arrival of his cat just over a year before under similar circumstances, he had started liking them and even sort of now considered himself a cat person.

He also had an ulterior motive. The cat was coming over to his yard and going after the birds. So it was going to be either find the cat a home, or war.

So that night he told his girlfriend, whose own cat was over 18 years old and not doing so well. He suggested talking to the neighbors and, if in fact the cat was a stray, taking it in as a future replacement for her ailing cat.

She was planning a lengthy trip and said that wouldn't work out so well.

So another week went by with Biker Dude now seeing not one cat, but two of them. This was even worse. Two potential bird killers on the loose. He began to panic. He started thinking of chain link fence and barbed wire. Of motion detectors and heat seeking lasers. He imagined a two front war... cats on one side, squirrels on the other. He started drinking more beer than usual.

He finally caught the neighbor as she was putting out her garbage cans and found out that two strays did in fact live in the bushes, and if he could find them a home, that was okay with her. He was welcome to take them.

So, imagining himself to be the helper of displaced cats and protector of innocent birds the world over, Biker Dude asked around.

But no one he knew wanted them. This started taking on a deja-vu feeling. He ended up keeping his cat when nobody came forward when it showed up on his doorstep. But no way was he going to take on two more.

He asked his girlfriend again thinking maybe she would change her mind. He tried to word the story to appeal to her compassion. She just gave him a look that could stop a charging army.

That was so not happening. Dang.

So a month went by from the time when he first saw them and then one day, after his girlfriend and her friends had a girl's night out, she told him that Jody, one of her friends who lived on a farm, had lost one of her cats and was looking to get another. She gave him Jody's number.

Wooohoo... This was finally going to work out perfectly.

The next day he called Jody and told her about the cats. She wanted to know if they looked well or if they looked all flea bitten. He said they looked fine and that in fact, they had been neutered and given shots by the local animal shelter. At least that's what the neighbor told him.

Jody said she would come by after work and she would take the cats away. She asked if they were easy to catch, and Biker Dude, thinking he was the newest expert on cats, said, "Sure. And if nothing else, we can lure them with a can of tuna."

Now you can laugh, but, once upon a time, Biker Dude saw the movie, "Roxanne," with Steve Martin. In it, Steve, or his character Charlie, lured a cat down from a tree with a can of what Biker dude assumed to be tuna. If it was so easy for Steve Martin, hey, it should be child's play for Biker Dude.

Biker Dude expected blue jeans at least, or some kind of grubby clothes, but Jody, the farm girl, showed up wearing a mini skirt and high heels. She and Biker Dude went across the street to the neighbors. Biker Dude went to the door. He felt it appropriate to at least tell the people that he was going to be poking around in on their property. The kid who answered the door said, "Okay," and even volunteered a small bowl of dry cat food.

The neighbor kid always held the door open only a small crack. Biker Dude thought that was odd. Then he noticed a foul smell. It happened each time the door was cracked open. It smelled unlike anything he had ever smelled before and he imagined it was the smell of garbage piled to the ceiling. This could be due to the previous week and finding out that his neighbors to the north didn't even live there anymore and that their house was now "Condemned" as unfit for human occupation.

Jody noticed it too and later told Biker Dude that it was cat pee.

Anyway, Jody, mini skirt and all, and Biker Dude proceeded to try coaxing the cats to come to them. They crawled in the grass on hands and knees around the house looking under the bushes. This went on for about ten minutes. Then Biker Dude went back home and got his magical cat catching formula... a can of tuna.

He opened it and set it on the ground and stood up all proud of himself.

And he waited.

and waited.

It was like the moment where all eyes are on you in anticipation.

Nothing happened.

It was like saying, "Look what I have," and showing and then lighting a gigantic firecracker and everyone running like hell and then the thing doesn't explode.

No cats came running. No cats came walking. They didn't even peek out from under the bushes to take a look.

That's the last time Biker Dude does anything Steve Martin says to do.

They left the pet carrier at the neighbors and said if they could coax them into it, Jody would come back and take them away.

And the magical can of tuna...

All it attracted was flies.

Squirrel Karma...

Warning to all squirrels:

Mess with my birdfeeders and karma is going to come back and get you.

Here's proof.

Squirrel Wars, The Sequel...

Now that the squirrel can't get into the birdhouse, he has decided to do the next best thing.

Eat the birdseed from the bird feeder.

Now it's war.

First thing in the morning Biker Dude bent down the pet the cat. Then he went to the kitchen window and looked out. A squirrel was crouched on the platform of the bird feeder chowing down on what's supposed to be for birds only.

Biker Dude's first reaction was to run out there and nail the sucker with his slingshot. But he couldn't remember where he put the thing. So he opened the back door and grabbed the first thing he saw that was throw able, which was a piece of firewood from the wood pile.

Well, by now the squirrel is off the bird feeder and on the fence laughing... or trying to laugh. His face so full of seeds they were spitting out of his mouth.

Biker Dude tossed the piece of firewood at him, missed, and the squirrel just vanished into the lilac bushes on the other side of the patio fence.

Round one to the squirrel.

Biker Dude went into his corner, or inside, the gather his strength and come up with a strategy.

First question was, How the heck did the squirrel get on the feeder? The thing is hanging in the middle of the patio suspended by a thin clothesline, and unless the squirrel is a tightrope walker, there's no way for him to get to it.

Put yourself in the squirrel's place, he said. How would you get to it?

Well, you could jump to it from the ground I suppose. He had seen a squirrel do a vertical leap of about four feet once to get a suet cake put there for woodpeckers, and this feeder is about four and a half feet up.

So he went out there and undid the eye bolt from the garage and raised it a foot higher. Then he did the same for the eye bolt on the house.

"Ha. Let's see you get on the feeder now," Biker Dude thought. "You'll need to be super squirrel, or else start eating steroids." ( okay, ignore the fact that Biker Dude talks to squirrels... hey, at least he's not on a first name basis )

Sure enough, the next morning, Biker Dude looked out and there was the squirrel feasting as if he had breakfast reservations at Biker Dude's Diner.

He ran out there without thinking, like a chef waving a meat cleaver, and all he ended up doing was swatting at the squirrel with his hands. Pretty useless. Pretty embarrassing too when he saw the neighbor lady looking at him as she got into her car.

The squirrel retreated to the roof of the garage to gloat. Biker Dude retreated into the house trying to keep whatever dignity he had.

Round two to the squirrel.

Biker Dude fired up the CAD program and started drawing. First the garage, then the house, then the clothesline and feeder and all the heights and distances and angles. He sent the file to the printer and then laid it out on the counter top. He looked at it from all angles. If he had some fatigues or camouflage he would have put them on too.

Hmmm.. Okay. He's got to be getting to the feeder from above. Maybe he climbs the garage, and then hanging from his hands and feet like he's crossing over a pool of hot lava on a rope, he gets to the bird feeder.

So Biker Dude cut and shaped some old plastic salad dressing bottles and fit them over the clothesline near the feeder; kind of like how ships have those discs on the ropes that tie them to the dock so the rats can't climb up into the ship.

The next morning he looked out. Ha. No squirrel. But Biker Dude was not satisfied with the possibility of having won the battle. He still needed to know how the squirrel got onto the feeder.

So he watched and waited.

That got pretty old after five minutes, so he sat at the computer and did some work for a while.

Every ten minutes he got up to look outside. Maybe an hour later he looked and the squirrel was on the roof of the garage. Biker Dude backed away from the window to watch, thinking if the squirrel saw him, he wouldn't make a move.

The squirrel seemed to be studying the feeder problem from all angles. But HA, he didn't have CAD! He stood on the roof looking. Biker Dude could see him making calculations in his little pea brain. Then, after considering it, or else finally hunger getting to him, the squirrel backed up about two feet, got down like he was a sprinter in starting blocks, started to run and took a flying leap off the roof of the garage. He hung in mid air for a second like a pirate swinging from ship to ship with a knife clenched in his teeth. The he came down, right onto the clothesline, where he did hand over foot upside down until he was at the feeder.

Mystery solved.

Biker Dude went out and chased the squirrel away and then realized what he had to do next. Fix the clothesline so even if the squirrel couldn't get to the clothesline, he wouldn't be able to get a grip on it.

He went down to the basement and rummaged among his bike tools and extra parts and found exactly what he needed. He went out to the patio and gave the clothesline a thick coating of heavy lithium bicycle grease.

He debated whether to put a bed of nails or sharpened sticks below, and decided that, though it would be satisfying, it was a little extreme.

So far, it's worked. No more squirrel stealing bird seed.

It took three rounds, and several days, but Biker Dude finally thinks the battle is won.

Squirrel Wars...

This morning, Biker Dude looked out his window, after hearing the birds all squawking and chatting like there was a cat nearby, and who did he see standing atop the birdhouse like he was King Kong on the Empire State Building?

A squirrel.

He stood there, straight and proud. Like he was the lord of all he surveyed. All below were his subjects.

Biker Dude said, "I don't think so."

Biker Dude went out there, armed with slingshot, to let him know who he was dealing with.

The squirrel watched Biker Dude as he approached. Biker Dude anticipated him trying to get away, but he was ready for that possibility. He had a stone in the sling shot and figured the squirrel had nowhere to go except down the pole that the birdhouse was on. "Ha! Plenty of time for me to get a shot off."

But no. Not this squirrel. What did he do?

He went inside the birdhouse!

Now this birdhouse was a major fixer-upper. It had holes that were so chipped away that you could have driven a Volkswagen through them.

Biker Dude saw the squirrel in one of the larger holes, watching him. So he shot a stone at him. It missed maybe by two inches. Biker Dude thought, note to self, practice practice practice. Just then, the squirrel crawled deeper inside and didn't show his face at all.

Biker Dude waited.. and waited... and waited some more. Meanwhile he heard the squirrel making sounds. He was either laughing at him... or swearing... "rassa frassa... freaking humans..." or maybe he was making a cellphone call to his buddies. But he wouldn't show his face again.

Biker Dude supposed he could have stood there, slingshot in hand, all day long like it was the siege of Troy, and starved him out, but just then a jogger came down the sidewalk towards him, and he didn't want to appear like he was some loony bird lover or psycho serial squirrel shooter, so he went inside for a bit.

After another jogger went by, ( geeez.. can't a weirdo have a little anti-squirrel-privacy? ), Biker Dude went back outside, and the squirrel was still inside the birdhouse.

Still rassa-frassa-ing.

By now, there was a whole line of sparrows sitting on the wire watching the action. One of them had a bag of sunflower seeds and was flying up and down the line like he was a vendor and this was the Biker Dude's version of the roman gladiators.

A voice announcing, "Today, for your viewing pleasure, we present, Man versus Squirrel."

Biker Dude imagined them chirping encouragement to him. But despite firing a couple more stones at the hole, the squirrel didn't show his face or vacate the premises. A collective moan went up from the birds.

Then Biker Dude had a brainstorm. He went over to the post that held up the birdhouse. The birds got all excited about this.

He put his hand against the pole.

The birds got louder and more excited. They dropped all the sunflower seeds to watch.

The squirrel came out of the birdhouse and climbed back onto the roof.

The birds went wild.

Biker Dude smiled. "I have you now sucker." But just as he aimed, two things happened. First, one of bands of his slingshot snapped and Biker Dude was left with a useless slingshot, and second and simultaneously as the first, the squirrel took a flying leap toward a hanging branch of the nearby tree. It was like six feet away but the squirrel caught the very end of it, and like Tarzan climbing a hanging vine, got up into the tree, and onto the roof of the house. Meanwhile Biker Dude scrambled to reconnect the hanging end of the band to the slingshot frame. By the time he got it reconnected, the squirrel was gone. Even if he could have connected it in time, he wouldn't have been able to shoot straight.

"Damn damn damn."

The little bastard escaped.

Biker dude made a mental note to get the set of replacement bands he had seen on and had put off buying. Live and learn. All Biker Dude could do now was go slowly back into the house trying to maintain some dignity in the face of this crushing defeat.

But later in the day, Biker Dude had an idea.

He undid the bolts on the pole, lowered the house down and swapped the old worn out fixer-upper birdhouse with a new one that he had been meaning to put up.

So now even if he climbed up there, there would be no way the squirrel could get into the sparrow sized holes. And even if he did, there would be no way he could get out.


But alas, based on the big collective groan the sparrows gave him later as the crowd dispersed, it didn't feel like that much of a victory.

Spiders in the Night...

Biker Dude's girlfriend looked at him like he had just said he just saw a UFO.

"You're crazy."

"No. Really, I can hear spiders."

"That's it. I'm dating a lunatic," she said. "What... you're telling me spiders can talk?"

"Yeah.. I mean, no... that's not what I mean. Last night, I woke up around two o'clock and I heard this noise."

"I don't think I want to hear this."

"What, it's not a big thing. It's just that I heard a little scritchy sound coming from the far corner of the room. And every maybe twenty seconds I'd hear it again, except closer. Like a mouse was crawling along the baseboard."

"And this is when the spider talked?"

"No. Will you just wait?"

His girlfriend shook her head. "You're nuts."

"Fine, I'm nuts, just listen."

She took a deep breath and looked up at the time. "Fine, you have one minute."

"Fine. Anyway, the sound got closer and closer until it sounded like it was coming from the corner right by the bed. So I sat up real slow and clicked on the light. But there was no mouse."

"Yay! No mouse, just a spider who said, 'hi, can I use your bathroom?'"

"Ha Ha.. you're a regular comedian. Listen, so I got up and looked behind the trash can, and there's this spider sitting there. A big one."

"Why do you tell me this? I don't want to know these things."

"It's all right, I killed it."

"I don't care if you nuked it. Spiders are... Eeeeeew."

"But the thing is, it HAD to be the spider that was making the noise along the baseboard. Which means.... I can hear spiders."

"Well, yay for you. Maybe you could join the circus."

"No. This is a good thing. Imagine, you'll never have to see another spider again. If I hear them, I can track them down and get rid of them before they scare you."

"IF you get rid of them."

He kept going as if she hadn't said anything. "You know, I think this is a huge plus on my 'marriageability' resume.

She stifled a laugh and looked at him over her glasses. "There's three things I have to say about that. One, Nice try, two,I think you're a lunatic, and three, there is no such thing."

He looked puzzled. "No such thing as what?"

She put a skillet on the stove and poured some olive oil into it. "Huh?"

"What is there no such thing as?"

She hummed to herself and lit the burner.


She picked a carrot up of the counter top and started peeling it. She looked over at him, "Oh, I'm sorry, were you talking?"

"Yeah, didn't you hear what I just said?"

"I heard."


"A marriageability resume. HA! That's even crazier than hearing spiders."

Garbage Day...

Biker Dude strained against the pedals on his way to work. Strapped to the front aero-bars of the bike, and looking like an out of place camel's hump, was a hooded sweatshirt, a windbreaker, two pumps, extra inner tubes, rain pants and rain jacket, and a backpack with a half a dozen books, a lunch consisting of a can of tuna and a half pound of Swiss cheese, and a T-shirt and socks.

The bungee cords holding this mass onto the bike groaned. Stretched so tight they were ready to snap.

When he got to Batavia, he left the trail and rode the remaining 7 miles on the streets. The only traffic he saw was a group of joggers and a couple walking their Irish setter. A commuter bus dropped off passengers at the train station. A bread truck passed him and pulled into the White Hen Pantry alongside a garbage truck; it's engine idling while the driver smoked a cigarette.

The clock tower of the village hall tolled 6:00AM. Plenty of time to get to work by 6:30. He slowed his pace; putting his mind, and legs, on autopilot.

Along the way, navy blue trash bins stood poised at the ends of driveways. Each big enough for two people to fit inside with room to spare. A line of them stretched down the street on either side. Some sat tilted, some turned, like a giant's crooked teeth at curbside. Ready to be yanked up by the garbage truck. Some stood like empire state buildings sprouting up out of cities of trash at their feet.

Biker Dude remembered when he was a kid and how he and his younger brother would scout the neighborhoods looking for radios and bike parts. He still had some of those things back at his parents in the crawlspace. His looking now was half out of curiosity and half out of the possibility of a find.

He passed what looked like a brand new big screen TV sitting by the curb. The black plastic cracked down the side.

The next house had a white microwave oven whose glass front had been shattered. Whether from inside or outside, it was hard to tell.

A few houses later a refrigerator chilled out next to the shattered remains of a Styrofoam cooler and a plastic bag full of crunched up Budweiser cans.

A block later, on the other side of the street, sat a couch the color of burnt hash browns. Yellow clumps of stuffing spilled out of it like scrambled eggs. Its cushions stacked like pancakes to the side.

He saw picture frames and dried up tubes of acrylic paints. Swiffer mops, sponges, and dirt devils, Ripped stuffed animals and a broken pink Barbie car.

One of those singing Bass plaques lie facing the street. next to some fishing poles and a bean bag chair that looked like someone had used it for target practice.

Then, about a hundred feet ahead, on top of a cardboard box surrounded by glossy brown hefty bags and a set of green vinyl kitchen chairs, sat a large red book.
"Hmmmm," Biker Dude said to himself.

He got closer and there was no mistaking it even from fifty feet away. It was a Merriam Webster hardcover dictionary. A big fat one. It looked like it was in brand new condition too. He downshifted and slowed to a stop. He took his fingered gloves off and stuffed them in a jersey pocket. Then reached down and hoisted the book up. He set it down on top of the mass of items strapped to the handlebars and opened it.

"Tenth edition... Cool." he said, "I gotta snag this puppy."

He flipped through the pages, looking up random words.

Approachable.. approbate approbation..

He turned some more pages..



Rest... restoration, restore..

He drank in the words on the pages. He thumbed toward the back of the book.

A screen door creaked and Biker Dude looked up. A man with fuzzy blue slippers and a brown terrycloth bathrobe shuffled out onto the porch of the house across the street. He scratched his head and looked at Biker Dude. Biker Dude gave the guy a thumbs up and smiled. The man squinted at Biker Dude for a second, then bent down and picked up a rolled up newspaper that lie on one of the porch steps. He took one last glance at Biker Dude, turned, and shuffled back into the house. The screen door snapped shut.

Biker Dude looked back down at the page he was on. He saw a new word he'd never seen before:
Valonia. Dried acorn cups from a Eurasian evergreen oak.

He thought Valonia sounded like a country. Like something that would be next to Transylvania. Where Doctor Doom went to school and was a kid.

He heard a train horn in the distance. "Dang.. I gotta get to work."

He closed the book. He slipped his fingers under one of the taut bungee cords and pulled it up, trying to create a space. The book refused to fit. He struggled for a while, muttering curses at the moron who would put so much on the front of his bike. He worked from the hook end to where his fingers were. Creating slack. Finally, there was enough space underneath and he crammed the dictionary under it.

He put his feet on the pedals and began to ride away. He smiled. He'd saved a book from the certain unpleasant company of old banana peels and coffee grounds and broken up furniture and plastic bags filled with unspeakables.

He reached back to his jersey pocket to get his gloves. As he started to pedal away, he recalled a scrabble game he and his girlfriend once played; where she'd obliterated him late in the game with triple points on a word he had never heard before and that wasn't in her dictionary.
He slammed on the brakes again and yanked the book from under the bungee cord and opened it. He flipped through the pages.

Hmmm.. I wonder if this edition has "boxty" in it?

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Strange Morning...

Biker Dude woke up today...

Oh shit! The fiction gods are going to have a fit. Every wannabe writer too who has ever read about how not to start a story is already thinking, "Aha! It's a cliche. You're never supposed to..."

Give it a break.

Biker Dude woke up, and that's when the craziness started, so that's where the story is going to start.


Anyway, he sat up, then stood up and stretched. Wow, that was a good night's sleep. The windows were all wide open and it was in the fifties. Perfect.

He knew he was going to be seeing his girlfriend that night, so he knelt down just below the bedroom window where, plugged into an outlet strip, was a timer. He was just dialing it to the current time when a rustling noise came from outside. Not just outside but RIGHT THERE. AT the window.

With the timer still in hand, he looked.

A blue jay sat perched on the flower box outside the window. It looked in.

It seemed to look at the timer like it was some interesting new gadget it wanted to try out. Then it looked up and saw that Biker Dude was looking at him just as curiously and it flew up to the wire coming to the house from the telephone pole.

It looked down at Biker Dude for about ten seconds, made a couple of skritchy chirpy sounds, then flew away.


Biker Dude finished setting the timer and went towards the kitchen. Before he even got there he heard all this cackling and screeching going on out on the patio.

He opened the blinds over the kitchen sink. There were at least 50 grackles out there. On the feeder, on the ground, on the roof of the garage and in the wood pile and the bushes next to it. They were on the back porch and two were exploring the old abandoned bird house sitting there waiting to be fixed or thrown out.

A group of sparrows were perched on the fence by the wood pile just watching while the Grackles monopolized the bird seed.

Normally Biker Dude would chase the grackles away, but he was still a bit sleepy and didn't feel like going out there... yet.

He stepped away from the window, went to the stove top counter, and looked at the mail from yesterday. When he picked up an envelope, an ant, a big one, scurried from where the envelope was to under another piece of mail.

Biker Dude moved the other envelope, and, before the ant could get away, he smashed it with his hand.

The cat, who was laying by the refrigerator, got up and looked at him like, "what did I do?"

"It's okay. I just killed an ant. You're not in trouble," Biker Dude said.

The cat lay back down, stretched, and started to close his eyes.

Biker Dude found a notepad. He wanted to write himself a reminder to bring his mom's book with him when he went to visit her, and when he reached for a nice sharp pencil, another ant appeared from under it.

It got smashed too.

And then another and then another. It was like they were coming out of foxholes. A backpack sat on the countertop and Biker Dude moved it to make some room for the battle he knew was coming. Six more ants were hiding under it and went running in all directions.

Bam... Bam Bam bam.... bam BAMM!

They all got smashed.

What the heck? Biker Dude rubbed my hand, which by now was feeling a little sore.

Then he saw some ants inside the unzipped compartment of the backpack. It was a regular party going on.

He shook it, and six more ants fell off and scurried for the safety of the edge of the countertop or for cover under glasses cases or pencils or sets of keys.

They all got smashed too.

Now there was ant juice and bodies strewn everywhere. Not a good day for the ants.

And still more ants were inside the backpack.


Biker Dude decided to take the backpack out to the patio and dump it out. There must be some reason they're so fascinated with the back pack, he thought. Maybe the cherry coke? Maybe the pretzels? Can't be the water or the pencils. Not unless these ants are thirsty, and they're writers.

He opened the back door and the multitude of birds on the patio scattered. They sat on the roof of the garage and in the lilacs just next to the woodpile and watched. It was a scene out of Alfred Hitchcock.

Biker Dude pulled items from the backpack one by one and ants dropped off each item onto the concrete.

He decided to leave no survivors to tell the tale and stepped on them one by one. Flapping sounds around him told him that new arrivals were gathering to watch the action.

Altogether, by the time he was done, at least sixty ants lost their lives.

When the pack was pretty empty except for the last ants hiding deep down at the bottom in the crevices, Biker Dude turned it over and shook it out and killed the last of them. Along with the last of the ants, shards of a cracked jawbreaker fell out.

Ahhhh... A light bulb went on.

One mystery solved.

Meanwhile, the birds just watched and waited. A few cackled their approval like crowds watching hockey enjoying a fight. But then when they saw that all the action was over with, they one by one flew away.

Biker Dude picked up the items and stuffed them back into the backpack. He tossed the remains of the jawbreaker toward the anthill just off the edge of the patio and went inside and sat down on one of the stools and thought, "Hmmm... First the blue jay, then the grackles, and then ants. What's next?"

And then he heard a scratching sound coming from outside the kitchen window to the north, where the poison ivy patch grew. He got up to look, then stopped. "Do I really want to know what that is?" he asked the cat, who lay by the base of the refrigerator.

As if to answer, he heard in his head a snooty, know-it-all voice saying, "You should never ever start out a story with someone waking up."

"You're absolutely right", Biker Dude said, and he went down the hallway and got back into bed.